Sunday, February 1, 2009

Michael Tobman: Losing Sleaze Consultant in NYC

I was surprised to find out that even after Michael Tobman managed to badly bungle a Brooklyn judicial race in 2008 (against a friend of mine, I will note) despite a massive money advantage, someone would hire him for a 2009 campaign. Tobman ran a very well funded, sleazy, Karl Rove style campaign on behalf of Roger Adler for a civil court seat and yet lost. The fact is that had Tobman run a cleaner, more mature campaign, he may well have won. But instead he took the nasty route and lost. I can't tell you how many people on primary day told me how turned off they were by the mailers on Adler's behalf that presumably Tobman approved. Dozens of people pointed out to me that Adler's mailers said nothing positive about Adler, merely smear attacks on Cohen. Bottom line is Tobman flubbed it.

So why is former judge Leslie Crocker Snyder hiring Tobman for her 2009 campaign for Manhattan DA? Snyder ran for Manhattan DA once before and lost, so is it a fellow feeling between losers? Actually that is probably not fair to Snyder, who may well be a good candidate, but her choosing a sleazy consultant who bungled the last race he worked for calls her political judgement into question. She is well known as a hard-ass in the courtroom, but it sounds like she has been conned by Tobman into hiring a lousy consultant.

I have only looked into the Manhattan DA race briefly. I am familiar with the Brooklyn DA, but I have little experience with the Manhattan DA's office. Robert Morgenthau has served for 9 terms as Manhattan DA, so he can be considered responsible for both the good and the bad during that period. Richard Davis sounds like a good candidate as chair of Citizens Union who has served on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force and in the United States Attorney’s Office. But so far I don't know enough about any of these folks to have a strong opinion other than leaning towards Davis.

But I do know Michael Tobman and find him among the most oily, distasteful individuals in local politics. And not very good at his job from everything I have personally observed.

I first encountered Tobman when he worked for Schumer. I was part of a delegation that presented a petition to Schumer in opposition to funding Bush's Iraq War. This was after it was discovered that there WERE no WMDs and that we had been lied to by Bush, so we had good reason to oppose a war we all KNEW was based on lies. The delegation was a mix of young, idealists and old women who cut their teeth on activism in the 1970's. We were very typical NYC democrats who donated to candidates and causes, joined organizations, and helped campaigns.

Michael Tobman was sent to manage us. He didn't even invite us in but, even though our delegation included elderly New Yorkers, kept us standing on the sidewalk. He tried charming us with an oily smile and told us that Schumer knew the war was based on lies, that the war was wrong, and that giving more funding was wrong...but that Schumer was going to vote for the funding anyway.

He then seemed genuinely frustrated that we weren't satisfied with that cop-out answer. I felt a little sorry for him as he was yelled at for quite some time by these old ladies, with some yelling from Joy and me as well. I tried calming things down by pointing out to him that we all were Democrats and were, in fact, Schumer's real base, his strongest supporters. He gave a sarcastic "Yeah, right" to me, basically showing me that he had no clue what a Schumer supporter in NYC looked like. He basically insulted a group of Democratic donors, activists and voters right to our faces. Joy and I met with several of the group (none of whom we had met before) and they had nothing but contempt for Tobman and anger for Schumer. I found my own liking for Schumer shaken by the encounter. That is not what a staff memebr is supposed to do for his boss.

Yet that is how Tobman handled eager Democrats who wanted to express their opinions to Schumer.

When I lived in Los Angeles I was in a similar situation vis a vis Congresssman Mel Levine's office regarding funding of the repressive El Salvadoran military. In that meeting I was actually with a more militant group than MoveOn ever has been, and yet we were invited in, given a similar non-answer, and had a similar confrontation. And yet the gentleman who had the job of handling us handled us with respect and sympathy. I had a lengthy exchange with Congressman Levine by letter regarding the situation and was left with respect for both the staffmember and Conrgessman Levine himself. This was in sharp contrast to Tobman's mishandling of a far less militant crowd of young activists and elderly ladies.

Tobman couldn't handle even Democratic supporters who had a difference of opinion with the Senator. I have since met Schumer himself and found him a far better representative of his own opinions than Tobman had been.

So that was my first encounter with oily Tobman.

Since then, I guess Tobman became a consultant for Teach NYS, an organization lobbying for tax money to be used to support private and religious schools, something I strongly oppose and feel, in the case of religious schools, violates the separation of church and state. So I can safely say that this is a second strike against Tobman, basically taking up a right wing Republican issue. I am certainly open to disagreement on this issue, but Tobman nevertheless is working for a primarily right wing position.

But my main experience with Michael Tobman was when he ran a the judicial campaign of Roger Adler, a very conservative lawyer who cited the judicial philosophies of Supreme Coury justices Scalia and Thomas as his inspirations and whose main political donations have been to Republicans and the Conservative Party. Adler's main legal contribution has been to write the amicus brief for the Conservative Party opposing marriage equality. Tobman worked with Adler's campaign and ran it in the nastiest possible way. Many people were horrified by how Tobman ran the campaign. Personally, I went from admiring Adler, despite my disagreement with him and my opposition to him, to dispising both Adler and Tobman for running a campaign low enough to be worthy of Karl Rove.

In short, Tobman is untrustworthy, nasty, and seems to favor right wing positions (tax breaks for private school tuition, funding the Iraq war, support for right wing judicial candidates...). What is more, Tobman bungled Adler's campaign very badly. He bungled it so badly that despite having far more money, they so repulsed Brooklyn politicians that almost no one was willing to endorse Adler, with the possible exception of Vito Lopez acting only behind the scenes. Lopez was reported to support Adler but as far as I could tell, never gave him much support. If Lopez did back Adler, it must have been lukewarm support, though it seems Adler got handed a consolation prize by the Senate Dems, something Lopez may well have helped with (speculation on my part, not based on inside knowledge).

So Tobman is the sleazy loser that Leslie Snyder is hiring for her 2009 campaign for Manhattan DA. Well, whether or not Snyder is a good candidate (and I know at least one person who found her courtroom so poorly run that she yelled at judge Snyder...though Snyder apparently took it well and apoligized, to give her credit), her choice of Tobman suggests very poor political judgement. I hope her legal judgement is better than her political judgement.

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